The Point Man

“Holy Shit…there’s someone coming down the hill!”

It doesn’t matter what your war was: WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq. If you’re walking point, you are the lead man, the man at greatest risk for surprise ambush or booby traps. You may be going house to house, clearing rooms, walking through hilly terrain, or three canopy jungle. My war was Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, the height of the conflict. There were more men in country during this period than at any other time, and there were more men killed in these years than at any other time. It would be interesting to know how many of those KIAs were point men, but those statistics are not available.

Most of the time, my platoon walked single file because the jungle was so dense that we were forced to follow animal trails or cut our way through “wait-a-minute vines.”  A few men liked walking point, and they were good at it. But to be fair, I rotated the task every day, and sometimes two or more times a day, depending on the terrain and the heat.